“We spoke glowingly of the “revivals” in Toronto and Florida. We wanted to be “drunk in the Spirit” like they were. In one service, the pastor’s message was about how the signs of the Zodiac told the story of the Gospel. I think there may have been one Scripture reference, taken way out of context, of course.”
Kent has allowed me to include his story in this series about a movement called the New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR for short. In this series, I want to take readers beyond the textbook What is the New Apostolic Reformation Movement explanation, into the personal experiences from those who have been there, and what happened when God opened their eyes to the truth.
Here is Kent’s story in his own words:
I don’t know if my church for much of the 1990s and early 2000s could be technically called an “NAR” church, as I wasn’t familiar with the label back then, but there are many similarities.
When I was first saved in my early 20s (I was raised Catholic), I started going to my aunt’s church, which was full-blown Word of Faith. Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland were heavy influences. More on this church near the end of my story, but it oriented my thinking that this was what Christianity was supposed to be.
Soon after, I moved to another town for a job. There, I looked for similar charismatic churches and found one I liked. The people were friendly – I still have a couple of friends I met there – and the services were refreshingly contemporary and free of restraint.
We were certainly charismatic in every sense of the word. People danced in the aisles. Tongues were uttered frequently - most of the time with no interpretation. “Prophetic” words were given. Our worship times often turned into extended, music-driven “ministry” times in which people would go up front and receive hands-on prayer – which included some of them falling down “in the Spirit.”
We used the Bible in our preaching, but it was usually to find verses here and there to “support” what the pastor or whoever was speaking would say. And the message often was prosperity-tinged. For example, we would hold up Solomon as a positive example of wealth that we should strive toward.
We spoke glowingly of the “revivals” in Toronto and Florida. We wanted to be “drunk in the Spirit” like they were. We hosted flamboyant itinerant preachers, one of whom boasted about his Corvette and would blow on people until they fell. There were times in these literal tent revival services where the preacher would say, “You won’t need your Bibles tonight!” People were told to sit as close to the front as they could, because God was more “up here” than “back there.”
Our services were heavy on emotion and sensuality. Everything revolved around what you felt. You can imagine how that would appeal to a mentally handicapped young man who was with us for a time. He loved to come up front and give “words,” because that’s what so many others did. One time when the pastor wouldn’t let him, he stormed out and slammed a heavy door open; good thing there were no children behind it.
Another aspect of this church that mirrored today’s NAR movement was its focus on politics. We ascribed to the dominionist idea that the church was supposed to take over America through the government. Our pastor even ran for Congress (and, predictably, was trounced in a primary).
As I read the Bible more over the years, more questions would emerge in my mind. Should we really hold up Solomon as our example, considering his moral failure? Why do those who openly speak in tongues not follow the instructions in 1 Corinthians 14, and why don’t most of their utterances sound like any intelligible language? Why did that guy fall “in the Spirit” on top of a woman who was lying on the floor? Where is this in the Bible? Where is that in the Bible? But I kept my questions to myself, and stayed for years out of loyalty and friendship.
Until the breaking point.
In one service, the pastor’s message was about how the signs of the Zodiac told the story of the Gospel. I think there may have been one Scripture reference, taken way out of context, of course. Around the same time, a guest preacher gave a “word” about me that I knew was off. The pastor even agreed with me, so I was left wondering: Is the pastor not hearing from God, or did he bring in a false prophet? Knowing how seriously God takes false prophecy in Scripture, that was it. I began looking for another church.
It was difficult to find a contemporary church that didn’t slide into the same charismaniac tendencies or seeker-friendly gooiness. One of the ones I tried for a while showed Rob Bell’s “Nooma” videos. I wasn’t familiar with Bell at the time, but ironically, I have partially have him to thank for my eventual exposure to many true Bible teachers. When his book “Love Wins” came out, I came across a critical review on the internet by Kevin DeYoung, which led to me finding more good pastors and teachers like John MacArthur and Paul Washer. They confirmed what had by gnawing at me for years about the importance of Biblical exegesis, and the dangers of prosperity preaching and charismania.
I met and married a wonderful woman whose church background was almost the opposite of mine. Together we found our current church, which teaches the Bible expositionally, has none of the craziness I witnessed for so long, and stands opposed to the NAR agenda. I am now an elder in this church.
While I am not a full cessationist, I will not accept any sign or word that isn’t in accordance with the exact instructions and example of Scripture – and if I don’t see any as a result, so be it. The Bible is sufficient.
Another great thing about this story is my aunt’s church, which I mentioned at the beginning. The pastor there has been through a spiritual journey similar to mine. He repented of charismania, and is now firmly committed to solid Biblical teaching as well, even at the cost of many departed members and lost friendships. I am very thankful for him.
I want to encourage those in charismatic churches who may be having doubts to listen to them, to keep an open mind and not just automatically accept everything that goes on in the pulpit, and to diligently search the Scriptures to see if the things they hear are so. God will lead you on a sincere, objective search for truth, and answer prayers for wisdom.